How to Write About (and During) Coronavirus

It’s hard to write during the coronavirus pandemic.

For one thing, it’s hard to focus on writing. My brain is pivoting to fear and worry, and also to nonessential things. What’s for lunch? How long is my hair getting? What happens if I get sick? Did anyone cough on me during my run yesterday? What’s the cat doing right now?

But it’s also hard to provide useful content. What do you need to know during coronavirus? Do you care about content strategy and UX right now? Or are you busy trying to feed yourself, homeschool your kids, and handle your own bag of worries?

Why is it Hard to Focus?

Instead of berating myself for not focusing, I asked myself: why? Why can’t I focus on writing copy and crafting guidelines right now? While the easy answer is that voice in my head screaming “THE WORLD IS BURNING!” – it’s not as simple as that.

Yes, worry about coronavirus makes focusing more difficult. But so does uncertainty. And for the past week, we’ve heard differing information from the CDC, WHO, and our various schools, religious communities, and local businesses.

I had a dream recently that I had cut myself. In the dream some friends were alternately offering me bandaids, while others gasped in shock and told me to get to the hospital. Even when I looked at my own arm I couldn’t get a sense of how bad the cut was. Was I hemorrhaging blood? Or did I just need a bandaid? Throughout the dream I changed my mind over and over.

When I woke up the metaphor was clear. As a society we’re struggling to understand: are we hemorrhaging or do we just need a bandaid? Of course we can’t focus. We don’t know where we stand.

How to Write About (and During) Coronavirus

Here are a few things I’m focusing on this week, to help me work and write amidst the coronovirus quarantine.

  1. Remember: content is important. Fiction helps us destress. Nonfiction helps us learn. Writing about coronovirus will educate others. Writing about UX will help adjust to the new normal (working from home, balancing homeschooling, etc). Your work is not less important because of the crisis.
  2. Write simply. The rules of health literacy are even more important right now. We are in a global health crises, meaning most peoples’ health literacy has just plummeted to Below Basic. The world needs professional communicators to clarify information. Never doubt that clear communication – and thus content strategy – is a part of healthcare.
  3. Context is key for the unfocused. To be clear, context is always key. But right now we need even more context for information. For example, when you tell someone “don’t go to the bar, there’s a virus” they hear “I’m in danger”. What they should hear is “you are putting others in danger.” Therefore, we need to say “don’t go to the bar. You’re healthy, and could easily be carrying the virus. You could infect others who will get sick.”
  4. Check your sources. There is SO MUCH information! Unfortunately it’s not all trustworthy. I’ve had multiple family members share with me this “easy test to check for coronavirus.” We need to check our sources, and check our sources’ sources. My rule of thumb: anything on social media should be Googled and verified by news sources. Anything from 1 news sources should be verified by 2-3 others.
  5. Update frequently. This is not a time for evergreen content. What we know today may change tomorrow. Today in many places schools are closed on a statewide level. By the time you read this they may be closed on a nationwide level. I’ll try to update this example as soon as that happens! To keep our examples relevant, we all need to be ready for fast and furious updates.

Your work is important. Your needs are valid. We will get through this.

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